excerpt from Lorian Hemingway’s memoir on her grandfather Ernest;
I had visited my grandfather’s grave in Ketchum the summer I had caught the marlin, arriving at the small hillside cemetery on a scalding July day, a half-finished fifth of vodka in one hand, a filter-tip cigar in the other. I’d made my way to the simple marble slab marked by a white cross, and stood swaying over the marker for a long time, expecting epiphany, resolution, a crashing, blinding flash of insight…. I wanted to say something of value to the old man, perhaps that I had met a dare he had set forth by example, but nothing came. The neck of the bottle grew hot in my hand. I tipped it to my mouth, taking a long swig, then poured the rest, a stream of booze, clear as Caribbean waters, at the head of the marker. “Here,” I said, “have this,” and walked away.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY (who loved horse racing); “I never back any animal that can talk – except myself”
The time is near
The clock is queer
I have had more than one beer.
Papa crept downstairs
In the early morning.
The keys are close to the time.
They open the locked cabinet beneath it.
The shotgun is quickly loaded
Two in the chambers just in case
Then the gun is heeled to the wall
And his forehead firmly anchors it.
Hands reach down –
Papa is no more.
In my view writing should be like masturbating – best done in the privacy of your own home. Though nowadays with the advent of the internet, and with CCTV everywhere, in might be a little difficult for both occupation in that respect. Although many writers eschew the notion of writing in a garret – what ever that may be. J K Rowling springs to mind; she famously is said to have written most of her first Harry Potter book in an Edinburgh cafe. I expect the multi-millionaire is a bot more discreet these days!
My own idea of a ‘garret’? Just a small room with a desk, laptop, my books etc, that I call my den. It’s kind of claustrophobic, but I like it like that, I feel it helps me concentrate – if it was big and airy and too comfortable I might be tempted to do nothing at all! Ernest Hemingway had it about right: ‘There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.‘Papa at work.
Well, maybe I don’t bleed, but sometimes it feels like it. You can’t sit there waiting for inspiration to come but that blank page can be mesmerizing at times ; the longer you stare at it the less inclined the words are to appear. Hemingway always left a piece of his previous day’s work unfinished so that he had something to begin the new day with. I try to do that as much as possible myself; failing that I write any old rubbish that comes into my head to kick-start my thought processes. It’s a bit like a car with a dodgy battery; once I’m up and running I chug along okay.
I never write for more than a couple of hours at a stretch. Then I may read for a while or go for a walk. I also like to listen to other people; on buses, on trains, in the shops; you can get some great lines for use in your work. Most people never listen; they are too busy talking.
Nowadays I type directly on to my laptop, but when I started twenty years ago all I had was a cheap typewriter, a Smith Corona I think it was. These days I don’t know how I managed with such primitive equipment! There is no excuse for sloppy writing in today’s world; all the facilities are there at the touch of a button for editing, spell-checking etc. All the high tech improvements may not make one a better writer but they certainly make writing easier.